Thursday, April 27, 2017

Awesome Life Friday #110

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Here's a bit of what we've been up to this week:

If you have a chance to see this movie, do it! (and the kebabs are pretty tasty, too)

And now our favorite part - the FEATURES !  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

May Day is coming, and the flowers are blooming - here are a few of our favorite flower-themed posts.

KBB Crafts & Stitches // Cross-Stitch Lavender Sachet
The calming scent of lavender and this beautiful bit of stitchery is sure to  evoke May flowers, no matter where you are.

Crafts Unleashed // Handprint Flowers Pillow for Mothers Day
What mother or grandmother wouldn't love this wonderful pillow

The Monday Box // May Flower Cookies & Military Care Package #20
Not only are there step by step instructions for decorating these delightful cookies, but also some wonderful ideas for filling a care package for our military folk overseas.

The (Mis)Adventures of a Born Again Farm Girl // Super Easy DIY Yarn Flowers - Make a Bouquet!
What a fun craft idea to do with the kids!

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl // 20 Essential Flowering Perennials for Your Garden
Several tips for growing perennials and so much beautiful inspiration for which to choose.

Maggie Lois // DIY Cedar Window Box
 Maggie shares a tutorial for building a beautiful window box to bring the up close.

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Touch of Spice: Beef Kebabs #FoodNFlix


I decided to join the Food n' Flix Club, where monthly, bloggers watch a selected movie and then cook something inspired by it.  This month's host is Culinary Envy (the invitation is here and the full round up is here) and she chose a Greek movie called A Touch of Spice.

I'd not only never seen this movie which was released in 2003, I'd never heard of it.  But they had me at "Greek", and since I was unable to find it at our library or for streaming, I went ahead and bought it.  I was a little intimidated -this is is subtitled, which I often find challenging.

But I actually forgot that I wasn't understanding the spoken language and the words and imagery were so lyrically beautiful, I found it easy to stay engaged.

In fact, I'm not sure I've ever been so frustrated to discover that a movie was not based on a book, because it seemed as if it should be (preferably one with a few recipes tossed in).

The composition is set up like chapters in a cookbook,  and the pacing and flow of the story is complex and well structured, with frequent flashbacks and thematic repetitions.

A Touch of Spice tackles the impact of being a child of Greek and Turkish heritage in early 1960s Constantinople, during a period of political conflict where Greeks in Turkey were forcibly deported to Athens.

Food is everything to this story - it is memory, solace, an expression of pain and of will, and it is the glue that holds together one's personal and cultural identity when home is no longer home, and the very definition of home is redefined by nationalism and politics.

Mostly, though, food is love - the love between a boy and his grandfather, and between the boy and the girl he knew as a child.

It is the love between his parents, who carry on an ongoing bit of lighthearted bickering as they tie together food and their memories of historic moments they've shared, and the aunts and uncles who cook, eat and share memories together.

It is the love for all those who would share your table, and those who are never able  to, and finally - and especially - love for oneself and the acceptance of who you are whether or not those who love you understand you. And of course, it is the love of food itself, and the process of preparing it.

It's a lot to unpack, yes?  This is why I so much wish this were a novel.  Even so, I managed to catch and savor a few delicious passages while keeping notes.

There were so many bits I love, from the umbrella that appears in so many scenes, to the explanation that men go to steambaths to discuss difficult things with each other because, there, they can open their souls, like steamed mussels.

The movie is divided into three parts, each with explanations of that portion's theme. I'm going to leave the plot details out of this because I recommend watching it!

Appetizers - "Appetizers tell of faraway places and prepare you for an adventurous journey." 
The Main Course - "Main Courses take us back to childhood."
Dessert  - "...the desserts are the epilogue of every fairy tale."

The movie carries not just a touch of spice and a beautiful look at a period of history seen through a love of food and family, but also a good dash of humor; I recommend it highly.  There is even a pinch of magical realism, where cinnamon, used at the right, or wrong, moment can make a person look you in the eyes and truly see you, and where spices hold correspondences to the dance of the universe.

I expect to watch this again and again, each time uncovering new tastes of all the many layers this movie has to offer.

So now - what did I decide to cook?  I wanted to make a hybrid meal to reflect the variations as well as the shared foods of these two cultures.

We are very lucky to have a great little Greek restaurant less than a block away - so we picked up some Rice Pilaf, Pita Bread, and an order of Greek Village Salad as sides, and I made some beef kebabs with a spice-rich marinade to go along with it - Greeks would make souvlaki, although generally with chicken, pork or lamb.

I don't claim anything authentic about the marinade - I've made kebabs for years in a doubtless American fashion. But I did select several of the spices because they were a key metaphor in the movie, or because they reflect the Turkish and Greek cultures.

Touch of Spice Beef Kebabs
(serves 4-6)

1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tblsp lemon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ancho chile powder

1.5 lb beef steak, cut into 3/4" cubes
onion or pearl onions
pint cherry tomatoes
button mushrooms
bell pepper (assortment of colors if desired)

Greek yogurt

*Note: I can't eat bell peppers, so I left them off - but if you like them, please add for flavor and color!)

 Whisk together marinade.  Place cubed meat in a sealable container that can be flipped over. Pour marinade over meat, seal and marinate in refrigerator for up to a day, flipping the container over occasionally.

Wash all vegetables.  If not using pearl onions, cut each onion in half and each half into quarters. Cut zucchini into 1/2" thick rounds, Cut the woody end of the mushroom and either leave whole or cut in half, depending on size. Leave tomatoes whole. Stem and seed peppers and chop into chunks about the size of the other veggies.

Two options here if you're not using an outdoor grill, and either will work - you can either thread the meat and vegetables on metal skewers together (which is definitely the prettiest presentation) or, if you are using shorter, wooden skewers or like your vegetables a little more evenly cooked, thread the meat by itself (with perhaps some tomato to help flavor the meat and a splash of balsamic or teriyaki sauce) and let the vegetables cook unskewered separately.

Our broiler where we live now is a tiny thing underneath the oven near the ground and it's very difficult to access - so I chose to broil the meat and roast the veggies with olive oil, salt, and some lemon pepper. Definitely a compromise, but it worked.

Once everything's done, serve with love and Greek yogurt, rice pilaf, and whatever other dishes remind you of home, however you define it, and those things that matter even when you can't see them.

Next month's Food n' Flix movie is the Princess Bride, which is an old favorite of mine!  If you'd like to join in, head over to see how to join the fun!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Party in Your PJs #155

No comments:
Happy Tuesday!

Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on four different blogs each week.   In addition to Kim from The Cookie Puzzle, you'll also find Party in Your PJs every Tuesday evening at Grandma IdeasWood of Bell Trees and... here!

You'll also find the Awesome Life Friday link-up here at RCHReviews, every Thursday evening at 8pm ET so we hope to see you there as well.

Are you ready to party? I can't wait to see what you've brought to share!

Kim ~ The Cookie Puzzle | Facebook | Pinterest 
Nina ~ Grandma Ideas | Pinterest | Twitter
Lynda ~ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos | Facebook | Pinterest
Heather ~ Woods of Bell Trees | Facebook | Instagram

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Kim @ The Cookie Puzzle 

Kim is a small town girl who love simple things. Simple cookies, simple crafts and simple people. She is a wife, mother to one son and two adorable fur babies. Slightly addicted to reality TV and sitcoms, but she loves curling up with a good book or a good walk while listening to podcasts. You can find her at The Cookie Puzzle, where she shares her love for cookies and crafting. 

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

How is this: Nina is wildly in love with her grandchildren. She delights in doing activities with them that strengthen their relationship –- playing games, doing crafts, snuggling, reading stories to them, and cooking together. She enjoys reading, technology, and traveling. (Tahiti is her most favorite place on earth!)

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda lives outside DC with her husband Michael and elderly beagle, Sadie. She and her daughter Jackie started RCHReviews as a way to spend time together in spite of living across country, and along the way they've added several friends as regular contributors. Between them all, they bring together many different perspectives and lifestyles with one common philosophy - try new things, have fun, and remember you are awesome!

 Heather @ Wood of Bell Trees

Heather is a wife of a peanut butter fanatic and mom of one silly human and one furry canine, wrangling life on 2nd shift and glitterizing everything as she goes!

The rules for the group board include:
1. Limit of one pin a day.
2. Just like the party anything goes, but clear wonderful pictures with great descriptions are most successful.
3. Please no Spam ( Spammers will be deleted without warning)
4.  If you pin to the Pinterest Board, please link to the Party in Your PJs Party also, the party runs from 7 pm Tuesdays-Midnight Saturday (Central Time)
5.  Finally have fun and share this group board  with blog friends and followers!  The more success the group board is the more success you will see from your pins.

Want to be added to the group board?  Follow our Party in Your PJs board and email Kim at

Features from Last Weeks Party!

 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiratioPn to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Awesome Life Friday #109

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Here's a bit of what we've been up to this week:

And now our favorite part - the FEATURES !  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

5 Minutes for Mom // Homemade Soft Pretzels with Honey Mustard Dip
Is there anything better than freshly made soft pretzels with mustard?

Penny's Vintage Home // Vintage Step Stools
Penny takes a pair of old step stools, spruces them up, and creates a sweet garden display.

My Thrift Store Addiction // Earth Day Inspired Bird Feeder from Vintage Match Holder
Here's another cheerful repurpose for your spring garden!

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl // Italian Scalloped Potatoes
This delicious version of a classic recipe is sure to gain a regular spot on my meal plan!

Simply Stacie // Honey Dijon Baked Cauliflower
Another delicious casserole side dish - this time lower carb!

Gluesticks // Make a Whimsical Fairy Garden Kit
This is such a fun way to bring in Spring with the kids.

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Coconut Lovers Banana Cream Pie #ImprovCookingChallenge


Serendipity - when unconnected things occur at the same time so that they work together in a beneficial way.

A couple weeks ago, my husband brought up banana pudding - an old fashioned dessert from our childhood made up from Instant Vanilla Pudding, Cool Whip and Nilla Wafer cookies - it was an advertiser's dream recipe and used to be on the back of the box for each of those products.

I was in no mood to make that - but figured a banana cream pie might fill the craving, so I tucked it onto my meal plan list until I could get to the store for the necessary ingredients.

Then came the serendipitous part - a few days later, I came across the Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Cookaholic Wife.  On the 3rd Thursday of each month, bloggers get together to share recipes that include a preselected pair of ingredients.  This month, the two ingredients are bananas and coconut.

That same day, my husband casually mentioned how much he could go for a coconut cream pie (we talk about food a lot around here) and I went aha!

And that's how this Coconut Lover's Banana Cream Pie was born.

It's a basic made-from-scratch vanilla pudding, poured over a layer of sliced ripe bananas that have been laid into the bottom of a toasted coconut crust (hey! This is gluten-free!), and topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of more toasted coconut.

Mind you - this pie is sweet and very rich, and the flavors all come through very well. I think next time I'd use a blend of sweetened and unsweetened coconut to cut back on the sweetness - but there is sugar in the pudding and the whipped cream, so this is definitely in the category of very-occasional indulgence.

But very indulgent it is and I'd feel quite satisfied if I ordered this from a good dessert menu.

Coconut Lover's Banana Cream Pie
(makes 1 9" pie)

2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
1/2 cup butter

2-3 ripe bananas, sliced thin into rounds
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
4 egg yolks (can freeze egg whites for later use)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup whipping cream
2 Tblsp confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup toasted coconut

Make the crust:
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and add coconut. Stir constantly until coconut is browned but not burned.  Turn buttered coconut into a pie shell, and pat evenly over the bottom, making sure it isn't too thick in the corners.

Set crust in refrigerator to chill for at least a half hour.  This can be done up to 24 hours ahead.

Wipe pan clean, and toast an additional 1/4 cup coconut without butter for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly.  Set aside to top the pie.

Make the filling: 
Remove pie shell from refrigerator.  Slice bananas and fill the bottom of the pie shell - it's fine if they overlap.  Set aside.

Separate the four eggs.  The whites can be frozen in a small container for later use (they won't whip into meringue, but are fine for omelets or macaroons).  Whisk the egg yolks.

In a small dish, place cornstarch.
Slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup of milk, so that cornstarch is completely blended, then whisk in the egg yolks.

Set yolk mixture aside.

In a large saucepan, combine coconut milk, sugar and 1/4 cup milk.  Whisk smooth and bring to boil, stirring constantly.

As soon as this boils, reduce heat to simmer, and slowly stream in yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Don't stop stirring or let it boil, or the eggs will curdle.

Add salt.

Stir and cook about five more minutes, until thickened and an instant thermometer reads 180F.  Remove from heat, and add vanilla extract, stirring to blend.

Pour pudding into prepared pie shell.

Let pie sit on counter to cool for at least 1/2 hour.

Put filled pie in refrigerator until ready to serve - should chill for at least an hour, and can wait for up to a day.

Preparing Topping:
In stand mixer, combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar, and whip until soft peaks form.

Top pie with whipped cream, and sprinkle reserved toasted coconut over the top as desired.